Drayton talks about RB and TE signees

There are years when recruiters live a charmed life and the recruiting class of 2006 is the perfect example. On signing day the Florida Gators had more than met their needs. For example, the Gators had a target of two running backs and one tight end and they finished with three running backs they really like along with an exceptional tight end prospect.

The staff had a goal of bringing in two outstanding running backs but they ended up with three outstanding prospects, one of which is going to provide an immediate boost to the special teams. St. Augustine's Brandon James might be the most versatile player in Florida's top rated recruiting class. He's capable of contributing to the Gators in a lot of ways.

As a senior James rushed 145 times for 1,392 yards and 20 touchdowns for the Yellow Jackets, who won the state Class 3A championship with an undefeated record. The 5-7, 175-pound burner also ran back two punt returns and two kickoff returns for touchdowns and added two pass receptions for touchdowns.

"We recruited him as a return specialist, but will probably start out at running back in the beginning," Florida running backs Coach Stan Drayton said. "I know he will be a threat returning the football. He is a very elusive guy. If you look at his numbers you see he is not a very big guy, but he has some toughness and some make-you-miss ability. He has a good burst and documented track times. He should be a great asset to the backfield."

The other two running backs the Gators landed were Chevon Walker and Mon Williams. Florida signed tight end prospect Trent Pupello out of Tampa Jefferson.

All Chevon Walker did was lead all of the best running backs in the Ft. Myers area when he amassed 2,027 yards and 31 touchdowns on the ground. He also had 16 receptions for 234 yards and a touchdown. Drayton says Walker brings a different element than the other two backs signed this season.

"Chevon Walker is a bit more of a slasher," Drayton said. "He has great straight ahead speed. He is tough and made some great plays for his high school down there in Riverdale. He brings some toughness to the position."

On signing day the Gators landed their last commitment of the signing period when Mon Williams said he would be a Gator. The big-time back from Mesquite (TX) Horn ran for 1,672 yards and 17 touchdowns as a senior and was a workhorse for his 4-6 team. His size and toughness are what Drayton liked when the Gators recruited Williams.

"Mon Williams brings the size," Drayton said. "He's 6-1, and 205 pounds. He is a very physical runner and a very tough kid. He's a 10.5 (100 meters) speed guy. You are looking at a kid that will be about 225 pounds and really give you that physical mentality the group has needed."

Drayton likes the potential of the group as a whole and how they will compliment the running backs on the current roster. Each has their own identity and will bring something different to the table to add to a bulging group.

"There is a place in the offense for each style," Drayton said. "They are all different and they all add a different element to the group that we didn't have. These guys are tough, and not to say we didn't have some of that, but these kids are coming out of high school with that mentality, and we are really excited to get them here and get them going."

With the roster now boasting six running backs the next question is how many do the Gators anticipate signing next year? DeShawn Wynn is the lone senior running back on the roster so Florida figures to be stacked at the position for at least a couple of years. What might this recruiting season hold for the Gators at the running back position?

"I really have no idea," Drayton joked. "You never know how things go. For sure, we definitely go out and get at least one. It depends on how productive these guys are. They are high school players. We know what we have already but we will have to wait to see what happens when they all get here."

Florida's spread offense requires a lot of versatility out of tight ends who have to be capable of playing the position in the traditional manner while other times working in motion as an H-back. Pupello had an impressive career at Tampa Jefferson. His dad is former Gator offensive lineman Joe Pupello. Drayton was his recruiting area coach in Tampa and he has high praise for the Gators newest tight end.

"He's a kid coming in already at 255 pounds," Drayton said of the 6-4 Pupello. "The one thing you notice about him in football is that he's a leverage player and he's a big guy with great hands. When you are talking about the tight end position in our offense he's a tremendous fit. He is a low leverage guy and we want to add him as a lead blocker when we can. If we want him at the line of scrimmage he would be a flat out tight end. That is his position and we are very excited about the versatility he brings to the offense."

The Gators seemed to add some things they have been missing from the roster in recent years: a return man in James, a bruising tight end/fullback type in Pupello, a slashing back in Chevon Walker and a bruising speed guy in the mold of Fred Taylor in Mon Williams. It is no wonder that Head Coach Urban Meyer was all smiles on signing day. These guys more than met his expectations and they figure to be a real plus for Florida the next four years.


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